I’ve been traveling since before my memory even serves. Road trips and flights were a regular thing in my family, and for a while, a bag sat at the foot of my bed, always half-packed or half-unpacked, depending on how you looked at it.
In recent years, I’ve made it a challenge for myself to see how quickly, efficiently, and most of all, sanely I can get through to my gate, and I like to think I do pretty well considering I usually have a couple of cameras and a computer with me. Packing a carry-on purse or bag is a lesson in necessity and choreography: You want to have everything you could possibly need, and nothing you don’t, and you want to be able to get everything in and out of those dull grey bins as smoothly as possible without holding up the impatient line behind you. The dance of of the TSA.
I get a certain thrill from checking my main piece of luggage. Once it’s been properly weighed and tagged, I bid my things farewell (with fingers crossed that they’ll be there to meet me on the other side), and continue on my way, feeling lighter with just a shoulder bag and the following items:
Headphones: They may not be pretty, but a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is key for flights, especially cross-county and long-hauls. I learned this the hard way, having once flown a red eye from Seattle to Boston seated in the very last (non-reclining) row next to an (understandably) unhappy toddler. A solid set of headphones will cancel out a fussy seat-mate and help to muffle the roar of the engines. If you’re not one for socializing, they can also signal that you’d like to be left alone by anyone sitting close by. Before you depart, load up on podcasts (I like Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, The Moth, How Did This Get Made, and My Brother, My Brother, and Me), white noise apps, which can help you sleep, and new music you’ve been meaning to check out.
Water Bottle: Stash an empty (BPA-free) water bottle in your bag and fill it up at a fountain after you get through security. You’ll stay hydrated in the drying airplane air and save money by not having to purchase water at the food court.
Birks & Socks: We love our Birks and socks for anytime, but the look is especially essential for air travel: A versatile pair of Birkenstocks can be easily slipped off for security, and the addition of socks will save you from having to walk through barefoot. Once you get on the plane, the combination will keep you warm in fluctuating temperatures.
Extra Necessities: If it hasn’t happened already, it will: You will eventually lose your luggage. You might even lose your luggage in Detroit at 2 am in the middle of winter (true story). Ever since that debacle, I always stash an extra set of intimates (bra, socks, underwear) in my bag, along with concealer, eyeliner, mascara, and deodorant, just in case.
Travel Journal & A Good Book: Take a break from your laptop or iPad and keep yourself busy by filling out your travel journal or catching up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. I’ll admit to also stocking up on magazines once I’m through security, too.